Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hiking Bell Rock in Sedona

We traveled to Sedona via I-17 North, and got off at exit 298 having no idea where we were going or what we were going to to do.  All we knew is that everyone told us “you have to go to Sedona while you are in Arizona!”.  I looked up some suggestions on the Internet and had some ideas, but was concerned about parking.  Thankfully, we came across the Red Rock RD Visitor Center just a few miles up the road.  The ranger gave us some maps and information on the area, and also suggested that we spend the afternoon hiking around Bell Rock. 

Normally to hike in Red Rock Country, you will need a Red Rock Pass or Federal Interagency Pass.  We have a Federal Interagency Military Pass (free for all active duty military and/or dependents), but it turns out that there are a few weekends a year when you do not need a pass and we happened to be there on way of them (Columbus Day Weekend).  If you need to purchase a Red Rock pass they are currently $5 for the day or $15 for a weekly pass (7 consecutive days).  95% of the funds received from these passes are used to enhance visitor services and provide environmental protection.

Bell Rock is one of the first Red Rock formations that you see on your way into Sedona.  The trailhead is just past the Village of Oak Creek.  The parking lot was crowded, but we were still able to fit our 35 foot RV.

The nice thing about hiking here is that there is an abundance of trails and connector trails, so you can make your hike as long or short as you’d like.  With the dark clouds and six children, this was very appealing to us.  

Turns out we ended up having perfect overcast skies and 65 degree temperatures, which allowed for us to hike nearly 6 miles in and around this area.  

We started out hiking Big Park Loop around Courthouse Butte.  You get some wonderful views of the Red Rock Scenery on this moderately used trail.

 The trail is mostly flat with a few small up and downs.

After hiking around Courthouse Butte, we hiked around Bell Rock and then allowed the kids to scramble up Bell Rock - their favorite part!   They made it pretty high, but not all the way to the top.

The real reward for climbing up Bell Rock is turning around and seeing the gorgeous panoramic vista of Red Rock Country.

To head back to the parking lot, we took Rector Trail to Rock Pathway.  Rector Trail is newer trail with much less traffic.  There were a few spots where we had difficulty following the trail, but I’m sure as it gets used more it will become easier to follow.  

One thing is for sure, we LOVE Arizona!

If you are spending some time in the Sedona area, be sure to check out our hike on Huckaby Trail and our visit to Montezuma Castle.  For more of our adventures, visit the Travel Page on the blog and follow us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Huckaby Trail: Our Accidental Find in Sedona

We were on our way to the Visitor’s Center in Uptown Sedona when we made a wrong turn and ended up on Schenebly Hill Road.  The small, winding road was not exactly ideal for our 35 foot RV, but with no way to turn around we continued up the road until we found ourselves at a trailhead.  We had intended on going to the Visitor Center to find a trail to hike, but being that we stumbled upon this one, we decided to check it out.  A local woman was there walking her dogs and recommended Huckaby Trail.  And a wonderful recommendation it was!

The trail starts out level but then descends rather quickly down to Bear Wallow Wash.  Water was flowing and there is no bridge, but we were able to rock hop our way across without getting wet.  There is little shade along the trail, so I’m sure on warmer days the creek crossings would be welcomed!  Which reminds me, be sure to bring plenty of water!

The scenic views are beautiful, but the trail is never far from the sights and sounds of Sedona.  The smell of BBQ taunted us most of the trip 🤣.

This was probably the first hike that I have ever felt like we were hiking in the middle of town and nowhere at the same time!  You'll catch some amazing views of the red rock formations.  Each turn on the trail has its own surprise!

There are some parts of the trail that are narrow with some steep drop offs.  It was difficult in some parts to walk and hold the hand of the younger children.  There is also a lot of up and down on this trail, but it was never too steep.

Our 1 year old of course loved being carried the whole way!   But, for the most part I was comfortable with all the other children (ages 3-9 years old) hiking the trail and they had no difficulties. 

We did not see a lot of wildlife (of course we are not exactly a quiet crew), but we did enjoy the vibrant color of this unique Pointleaf Manzanita.  Various kinds of cacti also line the trail.  The kids have really enjoyed learning about the different kinds of cacti.  Did you know that Fishhook Barrell Cactus is also called Compass Cactus, because it always leans pointing southwest.  This could be a handy tip to know if you ever get lost in the desert!  

Huckaby Trail is a 5.3 mile out and back trail that turns around after another creek crossing (Oak Creek) and a view of Midgley Bridge.  Unfortunately, the weather turned on us and at the first crack of thunder in the distance we turned around.  We did not want to get caught in a storm with 6 small kids and a flowing wash to cross.  So we only hiked out 1.8 miles (3.6 miles round trip) and never made it to the bridge.  Shortly after we made it back to the RV the skies opened up and there was torrential rain, lightening, and even some small hail, so I feel that we made the correct decision even though we were disappointed that we never made it to Midgley Bridge.  We will just have to come back and do this hike again sometime!

All in all, a wonderful, unexpected find!

For more of our adventures, be sure to check out our Travel Page on the blog and follow us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Learning Opportunities Abound at Montezuma Castle

We had just a couple of hours left before we needed to head home (well our “home” base for the next few weeks), so we decided to check out Montezuma Castle.  One of my mom’s favorite childhood memories was visiting this impressive site in 1968 - “the building in the side of the mountain build of mud” as she recalled.  After visiting, I can understand why the experience was so memorable and I believe our children will someday tell their grandchildren about it.

The Visitors Center has a small museum with a lot of information on the Sinagua people, and there are informational signs along the 1/3 mile walkway that winds past the ancient ruins.  We took our time and read aloud every sign.  We were surprised by the number of indigenous plants, shrubs, and trees that were in this little oasis in the desert (thanks to Beaver Creek that runs nearby).  

The children enjoyed learning about the many uses of Netleaf Hackberry, Soapberry, Ash, Juniper, Mesquite, Creosote Bush, Catclaw Acacia, and the beautiful Arizona Sycamore.  The main beams of the castle were constructed out of the Arizona Sycamore Trees.

Junior Ranger booklets are available at the front desk for children to fill out.  They even had a version for small children (ages five and under), which our little ones were very excited about.

Montezuma Castle and many other alcoves built into the limestone cliff, were occupied between approximately 1100 and 1400.  Montezuma Castle could have housed approximated 35 people, but it is estimated that 150-200 people made up this creekside community.  It is unknown exactly why the people left.

In 1933, Castle A (Montezuma Castle’s 5-story neighbor) was excavated which uncovered artifacts such as undecorated pottery, fine textiles, and elaborate jewelry, which helped archaeologists understand a lot about the Sinagua people. 

We spent about 2 hours here, but you could spend as little as 15 minutes if you just wanted to pop in and see the castle, or a few more hours of you wanted to sit, relax, and enjoy.  

 If you are looking for RV accommodations close by, I recommend Distant Drums RV Park!  We had a pull-in site and the view out our window was breathtaking.  Sites are paved and level.  Staff was friendly and helpful.  The park was neatly manicured, very clean, and included a fitness center, pool, and jacuzzi (unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate enough for us to enjoy, but the facilities are wonderful nonetheless).  A great place to stay if you are visiting Montezuma, Fort Verde State Park, Cottonwood, Jerome, or Sedona.

For more of our travel adventures, be sure check out our Travel Page and follow us on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

History Lessons at Window Rock and Hubbell Trading Post

One of our favorite things about RV travel is that our children are able to learn history and science through experiences rather than textbooks.  There were two short stops that we wanted to make while in the area of the Navajo Nation.

The first stop, which we did on our way to Canyon de Chelly, was Window Rock.  This small city serves as the capital of the Navajo Nation.  It’s main attraction is the window formation of sandstone (the “rock with the hole through it” - tségháhoodzání in Navajo) that the community is named after.

At the base of this sandstone formation is the Veteran’s Memorial which honors the Code Talkers of WWII.  Philip Johnston, a WWI Veteran, was raised on a Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary to the Navajos.  He suggested the use of the Navajos to Major General Clayton B. Vogel at the start of WWII to transmit coded messages.

In 1942, 29 Navajo recruits attended Bootcamp.  Despite their harsh treatment by the US Government in the past, they felt that this conflict involved Mother Earth and that it was their duty to defend her.  The complex grammar and syntax of the Navajo language created an unbreakable code, which made it possible for the marines to successfully take Iwo Jima.  The Navajo Code Talkers program remained classified until 1968, and it was not until 2001 that the original 29 Code Talkers that developed the Code were recognized and awarded the Congressional Gold and Silver Medals.

If we had more time in Window Rock, we would have visited the Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park, but we wanted to get into Canyon de Chelly before dark.

After visiting Canyon de Chelly, on our way to the Petrified Forest National Park, we stopped at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument in Genado, Arizona.  The Visitor Center does a wonderful job of presenting the history of the Long Walk and thus the importance of this Trading Post.  We spent about an hour here because it was a rainy day, but you could easily spend 2-3 hours in nicer weather or when demonstrations are going on.

When the Navajos returned to their land following the Long Walk in 1868, their way of life was destroyed.  Fields were trampled, herds decimated, and homes burned.  They were in a deep economic depression and trade was necessary for their survival.  John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased the Trading Post in 1878 (10 years after the Navajo’s returned from their exile).  Hubbell family members operated the Trading Post for nearly 90 years before it was sold to the National Park Service.

You can tour the historic grounds and see the barn, horses, chicken, sheep, bunkhouse, brick oven, guest Hogan, and more!  

Shop in the oldest continually operating Trading Post in the Southwest for authentic Navajo rugs, jewelry, baskets, and rifles.

Watch a Navajo woman weave an intricate rug (truly impressive!).

Explore the interactive weaving exhibits.

And perhaps the kids favorite part was the Children’s Trading Post in the Visitors Center, where you can let their imaginations run wild as they play and learn!  

Reading Sing Down the Moon has helped our children understand the devastation of the Long Walk and see the importance of the Hubbell Trading Post.

These stops also complement our Native American Unit Study.

Be sure to check out our Travel Page and follow our adventures on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Our Journey through Petrified Forest National Park

Rain!  In the desert!  Arizona may be receiving some record rainfalls (thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Rosa), but we were not going to let that keep us from exploring the Petrified Forest National Park.  On a positive note, the rain washes away down of the desert dust uncovering some brilliant colors.  

We had planned on doing some off-trail hiking at the park, but changed plans at the recommendation of the park ranger.  For one, many of the backcountry hiking routes cross over a wash, which would be prone to flash floods.  Second, there is a lot of bentonite clay, which swells as it absorbs an enormous amount of water and forms an icky, gooey, slippery, sticky mess that is difficult to walk on.  Plus, should the weather turn more severe, being 2-3 miles out in the backcountry with 6 kids is not exactly ideal.

So we decided we would take the 28 mile park road that traverses through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and hike several of the developed hiking trails along the way.  We entered the park at the North end by the Painted Desert Visitor Center.  After filling up on enchiladas from the restaurant and enjoying some Prickly Pear Taffy for dessert, we started our drive through the Painted Desert.

The first stop was the Painted Desert Inn, which was built in the early 20th century and is now a National Historic Landmark and Museum.  A hundred or so feet behind the Painted Desert Inn is Kachina Point, which offers spectacular panoramic views of the Painted Desert.  

A little ways down the road there are three overlooks (Nizhoni Point, Whipple Point, and Lacey Point), that all offer similar but spectacular views.  

Right before you cross over I-40, you’ll notice a 1932 Studebaker that sits where Route 66 used to cut through the park.

(our son making "binoculars" to see the awesome view)

The Burlington Sante Fe Railroad also crosses Park Road.  We heard a train when we were hiking at Peurco Pueblo, but it would have been awesome to capture some pictures of it coming across the Desert there by the Puerca River.  

Puerco Pueblo has a short 0.3 mile loop trail that takes you by ancestral Puebloan homes.  It is believed that 100 rooms once stood here and that it was occupied by 200 people.  A great stop for a short history lesson!

After driving through the Teepees we turned to head to Blue Mesa, a 3.5 mile loop road with a 1 mile trail.  The trail starts with a steep descent into the vibrant badlands speckled with colorful petrified wood.  This was our favorite part of the park!  

Jasper Forest and Crystal Forest are also speckled many petrified logs.  We were amazed by the variation of color in the petrified wood.  

For times sake we skipped Long Logs and finished up the day Giant Logs, a 0.4 mile loop trail located just behind the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center.  Some of these petrified logs were massive!

We turned right out of the park to head West on US 180 to Holbrook.  We stayed at the Holbrook KOA, but had to stop by and visit Mater’s Grand Pappy at the Wigwam Motel!  The kids absolutely loved seeing this landmark that was made famous by their favorite movie Cars!  

For more of our travel adventures, please visit our travel page on the blog and follow us on